Jury Decides on 25 Years in Prison For Husband of Sheriff’s Deputy Convicted in Strangulation Death

A Harris County jury Wednesday agreed on a 25-year prison sentence for Terry Bryan Thompson, the husband of a county deputy who last year fatally choked a young Houston father outside a Crosby-area Denny’s restaurant.

The high profile murder case triggered street protests and charges of police favoritism after video showed Thompson, with help from his wife, restraining John Hernandez in a chokehold. Thompson, 42, faced up to life in prison after being convicted on Monday of murder.

After the sentencing, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg spoke outside the courtroom and said she hoped the resolution would give comfort to the Hernandez family and Houston’s Hispanic community.

“There are no second-class victims in Harris County,” she said. “Everybody gets treated equal.”

During closing arguments earlier on Wednesday, a prosecutor asked the jury to return a life sentence because of the death of Hernandez, a 24-year-old glass installer who got into a struggle with Thompson.

“There was a day in our county when the life of a John Hernandez would not be considered worth as much as the life of the husband of a sheriff’s deputy,” Assistant District Attorney John Jordan told jurors. “Sadly, I can’t tell you that your verdict will change the past. But, to our community, it will forever define it.”

Since Thompson, the husband of a fired sheriff’s deputy, refused to show mercy and took a life, Jordan argued, jurors should not show mercy and should hand down a life sentence.

Scot Courtney, Thompson’s defense lawyer, asked jurors to consider a verdict agreeing that the railroad worker was acting in “sudden passion” which would cap his sentence at 20 years. Thompson did not testify in the trial.

Additionally, Courtney asked that the father of four be sentenced to even less than the cap.

“Terry Thompson is a good man,” Courtney said. “Did he make a bad decision? Absolutely. You need to give him a sentence that will allow him to, one day, return to his family and the responsibilities that he has taken care of.”

Jurors deliberated about seven hours before deciding that Thompson did not act in “sudden passion” and that he should be sentenced to 25 years in prison. He has to serve at least half of that time before he is eligible for parole.

Hernandez’s mother and his widow both gave victim impact statements in the courtroom where they told Thompson they forgave him despite being deeply hurt.

“I forgive you for what you cost us,” said Maria Elena Hernandez, the mother. “You said your children were the love of your life. John was the love of my life and you have taken him from me.”

Maria Toral, the young widow, said she visits Hernandez’s grave with their young daughter.

“She stands on one foot and looks up to the sky and says, ‘Look at me daddy, I’m a big girl now.’” Toral said in tears. “No man is ever going to love her the way he did.”

Thompson broke down in tears as both women spoke to him. When the verdict was announced, he doubled over and his attorney caught him by the crook of his arm and guided him to sit.

The trial lasted almost three weeks in state District Judge Kelli Johnson’s court.

Thompson was convicted on Monday of murder for fatally choking Hernandez during a late-night altercation at a Crosby-area Denny’s on May 28, 2017, the Sunday before Memorial Day.

Hernandez, who was intoxicated, was apparently urinating outside the restaurant when Thompson arrived with his teenage daughter and her friends. Thompson confronted Hernandez who punched the older man in the eye. However, Thompson was able to get on top of the young father and put him in a chokehold.

Cell phone video of the 53 seconds of the 13-minute long fight showed Thompson and his wife, former deputy Chauna Thompson, holding Hernandez down.

When the cell phone video was released, it ignited a series of protests in downtown Houston about race and how the case had been handled. Originally, Hernandez was charged with assaulting a peace officer, even though he later died of his injuries. After the video surfaced, both Thompsons were indicted for murder, and Chauna Thompson was fired. Her trial is pending.

She was in the courtroom with the couple’s children when the sentence was announced. She did not comment as they left the courthouse.

The jurors, three men and nine women, two of whom are black, did not answer questions from reporters after the sentencing.

Source: https://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Prosecutors-Jury-should-sentence-husband-of-13371244.php